Note: This was originally a social media post.
This year, I've been focusing on listening to my intuition and expressing my satya or truth.
And part of my truth is this: Social justice is important to me. And, there's a loooooooot of work to do. And as a yoga teacher, I see a lot of spiritual bypassing -- and it takes so much away from the work.
Today, I come to you as someone who is tired. I'm tired of seeing people engage in spiritual bypass, which is so so so common in the wellness industry.
Spiritual bypassing is when you use spiritual practices (such as yoga or meditation) to feel good and avoid dealing with the truth. It's a dangerous form of denial and is often disguised as self-care. There is a shadow side to everything, and it includes spirituality.
"Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don't even know we are doing it." ~Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D.
Let me be frank, I have done it. Spiritual bypassing was me as a teenager, not knowing any better, using my yoga practice as therapy sessions. Now, it's not to say yoga can't help people with their ailments and symptoms. But I used yoga as the ONLY tool to deal with my depression. I refused to get any more help than a 75 minute hatha class.
And when it felt good, it felt good. But there was an extent to that and when it stopped feeling good, it was devastating. I felt like a loser because I could not distract myself enough from the truth about my depression. That's what spiritual bypass is, a dangerous mindset of distraction.
It's sooo dangerous because if we could just spiritualize everything wrong in our lives, or the world, why would we take any real action to fix it?
Here's a very painful, unfortunate example. I know a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She said, perhaps I was really bad to him in a past life. Perhaps, that's why he's so bad to me now.
Yes, it can be that horrifying.
Now let's take this back to social justice and you...
When you see news about white supremacists and neo-Nazis parading around and inciting violence... How do you use your spiritual practices as a response?
Do you go to yoga class as a way to de-stress from reading all the news and go on with your day?
Do you go to yoga class as a way to spiritualize the information, in order to cope with things and then do nothing else?
Do you go to yoga class, practice a tonglen or lovingkindness meditation, and then hope for the best?
Because that's spiritual bypass, my friends. And I KNOW, as tempting as it is to fall into that trap, you CAN do better.
Here's the thing... I don't teach yoga and meditation so people (a majority of who are white folks) can spiritually bypass. I teach yoga and meditation so you can (hopefully) ground yourself, find self-compassion, embody the ethics of yamas and niyamas, and find the strength to get out and do the things that need to be done.
At this very moment in history, I pray that my yoga and meditation offerings can inspire people to find the strength in themselves to go and speak out against racism and hatred. Especially if you are white, you should know that your voice and actions are extremely important in the fight for social justice/against white supremacy. Because as nice as spiritual practices are, they won't get rid of racism alone.
So please, find a way around spiritual bypass. Face the truth. Allow the news of Charlottesville and racism to bother the f*ck out of you. Take a yoga/meditation class to ground yourself and be reminded of your own true nature. And then let it guide you to go out and DO something.
On overcoming spiritual bypassing
Listen, I'm not perfect. I, too, struggle to do my part and not burn out. On some days, I am tempted to turn off the news and namaste it all away. But I'd like to share some ways I commit to stay engaged and show up, from a yoga perspective.
Introducing my NEW virtual workshop, Inner Peace, Outer Chaos: Showing Up When Times are Tough AF. Get it 50% off by using the code LOVINGKINDNESS. I've been wanting to be more vocal about my stance on social justice and combining it with yoga and other healing arts. I used to think... Who am I to want to offer this kind of workshop? Who am I to want to speak about these issues? But I know deep inside this is the right step for me to take. I sincerely hope you join me.